Nearly 200 drug cases in past month

Nov 19, 2009 (DVB), More than 270 people were arrested in Burma in October on drugs charges while police exposed 199 drug-related cases, state-media said today.

The quantity of drugs confiscated was also high, with more than 27 kilos of heroin and 62 kilos of opium seized by authorities, according to the New Light of Myanmar newspaper.

Furthermore, 640,000 methamphetamine (or yaba) tablets were seized, the majority of which were found in areas along the Thai-Burma border.

The main location of major seizures this year has been in Tachilek, in Burma's northeastern Shan state, one the main crossing points into Thailand.

In July, border police there found an estimated $US7.5 million worth of drugs, mainly heroin and methamphetamine tablets, in separate raids in and around the town.

According to Xinhua news agency, the Burmese government has destroyed a total of 4,138 hectares of poppy plantations, used in the manufacturing of opium, so far this year.

Burma is the world's second largest producer of opium behind Afghanistan, but the surge in production of synthetic drugs has significantly worried neighbouring countries, such as Thailand, which have stepped up efforts to stem the flow of drugs across their borders.

State media in Burma carried news of a 'ceremony' at the end of October in which $US20 million of seized drugs were burned.

The majority of these drugs had reportedly been seized following an offensive by the Burmese army against an armed Kokang ethnic group in Shan state.

Shan state is the principal source of narcotics in Burma, with many of the region's ethnic armies, particularly the United Wa State Army (UWSA), thought to be in control of the market.

The Burmese government has announced it is more than halfway through a 15-year drug elimination programme, despite many critics of the junta accusing it of turning a blind eye to drug trafficking and production, and even colluding with producers.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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